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Fourth wall

The fourth wall is the imaginary invisible plane at the front of the stage in a theater through which the viewer is thought to look. One also speaks of a fourth wall in fictional realms, in literature, movies, television, radio, comic books, and other forms of entertainment.

The term signifies the suspension of disbelief used by the audience, who are looking in on the action through the invisible wall. The audience thus pretends that the characters in the story are real "living" beings in their own world, and not merely actors performing on a stage or studio set, or written words on the pages of a book. In order for the fourth wall to remain intact, the actors must also, in effect, pretend that the audience does not exist, by staying in character at all times and by not addressing the audience members directly. Most such productions rely on the fourth wall.

The literary technique called breaking the fourth wall is used when the plot of a story calls for some event to take place that shatters the barrier between the fictional world of the story, and the "real world" of the audience watching the story.

Examples of breaking the fourth wall include: